Posted: May 05, 2014 2:30 PM
 
Peaches Geldof possibly died from a heroin overdose, but one columnist said attachment parenting was what ultimately drove her to her end. She couldn't be more wrong.
Photo credit: Fuse/ Getty Images

The phrase "attachment parenting" (AP) was coined in the early 1990s by pediatrician and author Dr. William Sears. The Baby Book, the publication he co-authored with his wife, Martha, is considered by many to be the "attachment parenting bible," and attachment parenting is practiced by a growing number of parents and increases in popularity every year. Why, then, would the death of Peaches Geldof be attributed to this parenting style?

Geldof and attachment parenting

A writer for The Guardian outlined the life of Geldof and claimed that her attachment parenting style was too much for her to bear, so the young mother of two fell back into her drug-abusing ways of her past and overdosed on heroin. "This particular motherhood cult emphasizes the importance of maternal bonding so comprehensively that you could be forgiven for thinking that your child's future has been destroyed because you had drifted off into a 10-minute daydream during which the needs of your baby were not fully occupying the front, middle and back of your mind," writes Deborah Orr. "It's a model almost guaranteed to promote maternal guilt in all but the most psychologically robust of care-givers."

Orr speculates that the high standard Geldof set for herself ultimately led to her undoing — the toll of attachment parenting must have led her back down paths that she had given up for motherhood. The problem here, of course, is that Orr doesn't really understand the concept of attachment parenting, and unfortunately, how she describes it is typical of mainstream media outlets.

Attachment parenting and the media

For those who don't practice or have a basic grasp of the attachment parenting method, it can be hard to understand. It doesn't help that the media doesn't always portray it well, and it's common for many to highlight extreme cases that can really work to skew public perception of some of its basic tenets (such as a co-sleeping death or breastfeeding beyond infancy). Orr summarizes one of the most common misconceptions of AP in her article, where she assumes that mothers who practice AP are overly consumed with their kids — consumed to their own detriment. And that simply isn't true.

What does attachment parenting mean?

Sears outlines the basic ideas behind attachment parenting with the Seven Baby B's, which can be read here. Bedding close to baby, breastfeeding and babywearing are probably the three most easily recognized aspects of AP, but not everyone who "does" AP follows this formula exactly — nor does one have to.

We human beings are hardwired to care for our young just like all other animals, and listening to — and acting upon — those instincts is the core of AP.

Essentially, attachment parenting is parenting that is based on instinct. We human beings are hardwired to care for our young just like all other animals, and listening to — and acting upon — those instincts is the core of AP. And attachment parenting isn't all or nothing. As long as you feel that your baby will tell you what she needs, and you act on that, you are practicing AP. I asked a few moms what attachment parenting means to them, and they agree with me. "Attachment parenting, to me, means not fighting my natural instincts," says Liz, mother of two.

Jenn, a mom of one, feels the same. "AP for me is being in tune with my daughter," she explains. "It means parenting with kindness, and responding to her needs when she needs it, day and night. It's not denying my instincts as a mother, and going with my gut. Because of AP, I don't second guess my parenting, it just feels right."

Too far?

The last "B" on the Sears' list is "balance," and it may be the most important one. While you're in tune with your little one and helping develop a secure emotional attachment, you also have to take care of yourself. Not doing so can result in resentment or burnout, which can be dangerous. Make yourself a priority, because you are an essential part of the relationship.

Don't be afraid to follow your instincts as you parent your child. Do what's right for you and your family.

Could Geldof have taken attachment parenting too far? Of course. No parenting method will work for everyone, and there are those who practice AP in an unhealthy way — just like there are those who practice other parenting methods in an unhealthy way. But to suggest that attachment parenting is unsuitable for most parents is frankly ridiculous and it can drive away moms who would like to know more. Also, to pin Geldof's death on her parenting style is presumptuous. Don't be afraid to follow your instincts as you parent your child. Do what's right for you and your family.

More on attachment parenting

Censored: Magazine cover of mom breastfeeding is a no-go
Mom turned breastfeeding advocate
Breastfeeding toddlers: Why extended nursing works

Topics: